My First Competition: Results, Disappointments, Improvements

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Jaffy

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I've been brewing for a relatively long time however I have been rather shy on sharing my brews, let alone having them test in high scrutiny, however I decided that I was decent enough to at least enter and I should shed some of my cowardice. I am also someone who likes to take things way too far. So, couple months back for my first competition I decided to go BIG. I researched what where some of the more prestigious competitions in the world and came to the Frankfurt International Trophy. I have always been fond of German lagers and considered brewing a lager to enter however, maybe incorrectly, I came to the realization that entering lager in a German Lager competition would have been a foolish decision, especially when I am competition with brew masters who spent their entire lives perfecting lager. So I decided to brew one of my strong suits, and that was stout, particularly session stouts. Over the years I have developed a Oatmeal Stout Recipe which I fell in love with, however since I wanted a decent shot at winning I decided to watch the Mean Brews video on award winning Oatmeal Stout, which funnily enough my grainbill already fit the guidelines he laid out, so the only thing I really had to change where the hops and water chemistry.

This was the recipe I used:
1654969393087.png

The brewday was a rather decent one, with few mistakes being made, however one major mistake that might have costed me any awards might have been the extended protein rest and the lack of hops. I decided to forgo the flavor edition since I was being frugal when purchasing the hops, which in retrospect was a bad idea but eh. I meant to rest it at 125 F for 20 minutes but instead let it go for 30 since I was carried away with my wife on something, but once I realized how much time had passed it was too late. I then mashed at 154 F for 80 minutes, lautered, then sparged at 170F for 30 minutes. I then boiled for 75 minutes, and added my only edition of EKG at 60 minutes, which in retrospect was probably the biggest mistake I did. After the boil had completed I cooled it down to 60 F, and inoculated the wort with a dual-pitch of Imperial Darkness and WLP002. On a side note, that combination of yeast produced a beer that was wonderfully fruity, chewy, and dry while maintaining body. Fermentation was pretty simple, I held the beer at 65 F for two weeks, then brought it down to 55 F for another two weeks for secondary. One unique thing I did was that for carbonation, I bottle conditioned it with wildflower honey. It had very little flavor impact and could have easily been replaced with sucrose or dextrose, but it did the job and rather nicely. So after bottling, the beer was sent to Germany in a span of two weeks, as the competition happened a month after I sent the beers, which would have given the Stouts enough time to mature.

When I tried some of the stout in the keg, in my opinion, it was delicious, however it had two major faults. It lacked foam and had a little note of astringency. It wasn't unbearably astringent and when it first entered the mouth it acted as a lovely background flavor of roast, but the more of the beer I consumed the more it became noticeable, even if it was only barely noticeable.

After the competition, I got the results and sadly I did not win, however for such a prestigious competition I did rather decently in my opinion
1654970955141.png

I am fairly accepting on my scores, although one thing I kinda bummed me out somewhat was how relatively poorly I did on the flavor, as I thought the stout tasted great, if only lacking hop flavor. And that is also what the judges thought, but I will get more onto that later. My biggest mistake was definitely opting out on the flavor edition, and next time I compete I am going add it in, even if I do not entirely see the necessity of it in a stout. Another mistake I did was the extended protein rest, so next time I'll be more adamant in checking the time when doing such rests, however this isn't a mistake I do often I was just captivated by my lovely wife, who on a side note adored the stout! On more positive notes, I wasn't say very far off from winning a medal, as I did considerably better then others and if I where to correct my foolish mistakes, I could have a decent shot at winning next year, however after that I'm kinda competitoned out. I was considering signing up for NHC, but after my failure I don't think I'm entering anything else this year, especially with my work schedule and future projects, both beer and non-beer related, coming up.

More in-depth beer notes:

1654971567698.png


One thing I'm quite proud of is that in the quality part of their rating, I did very well, and even surpassed some award winners, who presumably, have actual breweries and brew masters. Goes to show that the experienced homebrewer is just as good as the commercial brewer! I don't see much wrong with the recipe, however if you or anyone has any critiques I'll be more than happy to hear them, I know next time I'm definitely adding the flavor edition of hops, also more hop bitterness(?) and also more roast aromas? I don't understand what they mean by that since the stout was filled with roast, but if anyone has any recommendations for that, feel free to say them.
 

fourfarthing

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A 33 is a solid score. Good enough to get close to 3rd in most competitions, so I would be pumped if you got that in a premier competition.

I don't brew stouts well, so that's the best feedback I can give ya :)
 

BrewDrinkRepeat

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A 33 is a solid score. Good enough to get close to 3rd in most competitions, so I would be pumped if you got that in a premier competition.

I don't brew stouts well, so that's the best feedback I can give ya :)
33 isn't the total score, it only the score for overall (similar to a BJCP overall score, x/10).

The actual total score was 77.75
 

BrewDrinkRepeat

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Goes to show that the experienced homebrewer is just as good as the commercial brewer!
100%. There is no reason a homebrewer cannot make beer that is just as good as commercial beer.

(And let's not pretend for a hot second that all commercial beer is good... especially in this most recent wave of brewery openings!)
 

seatazzz

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One thing I will say, is don't let this discourage you from entering further competitions. One of the advantages of entering competitions is the feedback you get from judges. And keep in mind, judges are human. They do make occasional mistakes (not many, but some). And where your beer was in a flight can also affect the scores. In the last few I've entered, I've kept a bottle of the entry until the scores come out; so I can taste it while reading along with the judges' comments. As you said, this was a BIG competition; you really did well for that. Look for smaller, local competitions, where maybe there aren't so many entries; in my opinion you will get better feedback. And enter the same beer in different competitions; you might be surprised at the different feedback you'll get.
 

JaggersBrewingCo

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That is a score to be proud of! So as far as judging goes...

Same batch of beer a Berliner of mine scored a 27 first competition this year, a 38 the next, and a 44 the one after that, the bronze medal for that category won at a 45. Where does my beer really fall? To me that brew is/ was perfect and I will not change one thing.

Having to objectify a personal experience sometimes things can get lost in translation. I lent a hand during my local homebrews competition to help judge, I learned a lot I feel like. Some of what you wouldn't think would hold a beer back will, and some of what you think can or should won't. Then you have the fact that it is a group effort to judge that brew and you have to come to some kind of agreement on a score.

Keep in mind that some of these brews being judged may of had judges that just came from a flight that wrecked their taste, or a category can be folded into another category that may interfere with another due to a few reasons.

If you have anymore of that brew enter in a few more and see what happens, if it keeps getting the same remarks and scores then maybe take note of it. But sometimes some of the notes are worth noting especially with comments like "Would buy in public but not private" or "Not German enough" (That was noted a Belgium category turn in...)
 

RimWreck

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I've been brewing for a relatively long time however I have been rather shy on sharing my brews, let alone having them test in high scrutiny, however I decided that I was decent enough to at least enter and I should shed some of my cowardice. I am also someone who likes to take things way too far. So, couple months back for my first competition I decided to go BIG. I researched what where some of the more prestigious competitions in the world and came to the Frankfurt International Trophy. I have always been fond of German lagers and considered brewing a lager to enter however, maybe incorrectly, I came to the realization that entering lager in a German Lager competition would have been a foolish decision, especially when I am competition with brew masters who spent their entire lives perfecting lager. So I decided to brew one of my strong suits, and that was stout, particularly session stouts. Over the years I have developed a Oatmeal Stout Recipe which I fell in love with, however since I wanted a decent shot at winning I decided to watch the Mean Brews video on award winning Oatmeal Stout, which funnily enough my grainbill already fit the guidelines he laid out, so the only thing I really had to change where the hops and water chemistry.

This was the recipe I used:View attachment 771475
The brewday was a rather decent one, with few mistakes being made, however one major mistake that might have costed me any awards might have been the extended protein rest and the lack of hops. I decided to forgo the flavor edition since I was being frugal when purchasing the hops, which in retrospect was a bad idea but eh. I meant to rest it at 125 F for 20 minutes but instead let it go for 30 since I was carried away with my wife on something, but once I realized how much time had passed it was too late. I then mashed at 154 F for 80 minutes, lautered, then sparged at 170F for 30 minutes. I then boiled for 75 minutes, and added my only edition of EKG at 60 minutes, which in retrospect was probably the biggest mistake I did. After the boil had completed I cooled it down to 60 F, and inoculated the wort with a dual-pitch of Imperial Darkness and WLP002. On a side note, that combination of yeast produced a beer that was wonderfully fruity, chewy, and dry while maintaining body. Fermentation was pretty simple, I held the beer at 65 F for two weeks, then brought it down to 55 F for another two weeks for secondary. One unique thing I did was that for carbonation, I bottle conditioned it with wildflower honey. It had very little flavor impact and could have easily been replaced with sucrose or dextrose, but it did the job and rather nicely. So after bottling, the beer was sent to Germany in a span of two weeks, as the competition happened a month after I sent the beers, which would have given the Stouts enough time to mature.

When I tried some of the stout in the keg, in my opinion, it was delicious, however it had two major faults. It lacked foam and had a little note of astringency. It wasn't unbearably astringent and when it first entered the mouth it acted as a lovely background flavor of roast, but the more of the beer I consumed the more it became noticeable, even if it was only barely noticeable.

After the competition, I got the results and sadly I did not win, however for such a prestigious competition I did rather decently in my opinion
View attachment 771478
I am fairly accepting on my scores, although one thing I kinda bummed me out somewhat was how relatively poorly I did on the flavor, as I thought the stout tasted great, if only lacking hop flavor. And that is also what the judges thought, but I will get more onto that later. My biggest mistake was definitely opting out on the flavor edition, and next time I compete I am going add it in, even if I do not entirely see the necessity of it in a stout. Another mistake I did was the extended protein rest, so next time I'll be more adamant in checking the time when doing such rests, however this isn't a mistake I do often I was just captivated by my lovely wife, who on a side note adored the stout! On more positive notes, I wasn't say very far off from winning a medal, as I did considerably better then others and if I where to correct my foolish mistakes, I could have a decent shot at winning next year, however after that I'm kinda competitoned out. I was considering signing up for NHC, but after my failure I don't think I'm entering anything else this year, especially with my work schedule and future projects, both beer and non-beer related, coming up.

More in-depth beer notes:

View attachment 771480

One thing I'm quite proud of is that in the quality part of their rating, I did very well, and even surpassed some award winners, who presumably, have actual breweries and brew masters. Goes to show that the experienced homebrewer is just as good as the commercial brewer! I don't see much wrong with the recipe, however if you or anyone has any critiques I'll be more than happy to hear them, I know next time I'm definitely adding the flavor edition of hops, also more hop bitterness(?) and also more roast aromas? I don't understand what they mean by that since the stout was filled with roast, but if anyone has any recommendations for that, feel free to say them.
Be proud of what you did. You should NOT brew for anyone's satisfaction but your own. Use Judges comments only if they pertain to what you perceive as a problem. If you like it, keep brewing it. Astringency is usually corrected by pH and sparging pH. Foam is more involved.
 
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Jaffy

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Be proud of what you did. You should NOT brew for anyone's satisfaction but your own. Use Judges comments only if they pertain to what you perceive as a problem. If you like it, keep brewing it. Astringency is usually corrected by pH and sparging pH. Foam is more involved.
What should the ideal pH be? Mines was mashed at around 5.4. Didn't check the sparge although I'll check that next time
 

RimWreck

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What should the ideal pH be? Mines was mashed at around 5.4. Didn't check the sparge although I'll check that next time
5.4 works. I usually go for 5.3. There's alot of strong opinions on this topic. For me, above 5.4 my beers start to lose "sharpness".
 

RimWreck

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5.4 works. I usually go for 5.3. There's alot of strong opinions on this topic. For me, above 5.4 my beers start to lose "sharpness".
Another point on astringency...
Years ago I would have astringency issues by sparging too long and leeching tannins. I now avoid worrying about efficiency. I add extra malt, acidify my sparge water to below 5.5 and quit collecting while there is still wort to collect. It is said that you should quit at about 1.010 or so. But I stop collecting much higher at about 1.020. This helps avoid the sparge pH concern. Channeling with a high sparge water pH could also leech tannins.
 
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mashpaddled

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As others have said the score really isn't bad at all. I'm not sure the score translates 1:1 to a 50 top score. As you approach perfection judges often make it increasingly harder to earn each point. Even if this was in the low thirties on the BJCP scale that is still very respectable for your first competition.

I'm not one to enter competitions but I have judged several times. Scoring is so subjective and so little time is spent trying to give good feedback that personally I just wouldn't see the value in it. I also don't have an interest in brewing for competitions over my own preferences. That is something you should consider. Brewing for competition isn't necessarily making the best beer. It's making the best beer to win a ribbon. That means you need to brew not just technically proficient but the boldest beer you can get away with in the category (which may mean exceeding the stated bounds for the style) and similar to whatever beers your judges might think are the ideal versions of the style.
 
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